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Causes of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)

2-minute read

As with many personality disorders, the exact cause of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is unknown. Biological vulnerabilities, early childhood experiences and psychological factors form a complex mixture and may all play a part.

Early childhood risk factors include:

  • insensitive parenting
  • over-praising and excessive pampering - when parents focus intensely on a particular talent or the physical appearance of their child as a result of their own self-esteem issues
  • unpredictable or negligent care
  • excessive criticism
  • abuse
  • trauma
  • extremely high expectations.

Other possible factors include:

  • genetic abnormalities impacting on psychobiology - the connection between brain and behaviour
  • an over-sensitive temperament.

Although there is no one answer to the question of what causes NPD, professionals agree that the sooner treatment begins, the better a person's chance for an improved quality of life.

Where to get help

If you need help, talking to your doctor is a good place to start. If you’d like to find out more or talk to someone else, here are some organisations that can help:

  • SANE Australia (people living with a mental illness) – call 1800 18 7263.
  • beyondblue (anyone feeling depressed or anxious) – call 1300 22 4636 or chat online.
  • Black Dog Institute (people affected by mood disorders) – online help.
  • Lifeline (anyone having a personal crisis) – call 13 11 14 or chat online.
  • Suicide Call Back Service (anyone thinking about suicide) – call 1300 659 467.

Last reviewed: December 2016

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